Frozen Methane Bubbles
Frozen Methane Bubbles (Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey)

Wow, this is a headline I didn’t want to read.

If we release a small portion of Arctic Methane, ‘We’re fucked’: Climatologist

A few weeks ago, I posted here on the case for global warming setting off positive feedback loops that would melt the Arctic. I was especially concerned with the escape of methane from under permafrost. This was in response to a number of methane vents opening up in Siberia. Since I first posted the article, a number of other articles have come out regarding the methane. There’s additional information here including links. One commentator put it this way: We’re going to see the tundra breaking out in these things like zits on a teenager.

On a more serious note, Dr. Natalia Shakova leads the Russia-U.S. Methane Study at the International Arctic Research Center, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her research shows a drastic fall-off in Arctic ice (and a consequent freeing of the methane hydrates underneath) over the past decade. There’s an interview here, where Dr. Shakova expresses great concern about the status of the warming of the Arctic–and only 1% of the sequestered methane would need to be released in order to face climate calamity.

These are two separate feedback loops, by the way. The permafrost thaw in Siberia is one; but the release of Arctic methane may be even more serious.  One question that has been raised is whether the the people in charge understand the ramifications of runaway climate collapse–the evidence that indicates we’ve passed a Rubicon on global heating as a result of the activation of various feedback loops that were tripped when average temperatures went 1 degree centigrade over average baseline temperatures.

One of the anomalies of this phenomenon is that extinction level heating of the planet will not be uniform. The Northern hemisphere will cook first–as a result of larger heat-trapping land mass and the prevalence of both people and fossil-fuel belching machinery. The Southern hemisphere may survive an extra 12 years as a result of this anomaly. Is it possible that the elites are preparing to flee to the South in order to savor an extra decade or so? Is that why nobody is telling us what’s going on?

Or is there another motive?

Remember that we are also looking at peak oil–absent ‘unconventional’  fuels from extraction methods like fracking, shale oil smashing, and melting of the tar sands, the amount of fossil fuel extracted annually in order to power all our toys is in decline. The ‘unconventional’ extraction methods are not cheap. Fracking has quick fall offs of production and requires constant reinvestments in drilling. The shale needs to be heated in order to give up its oil–that requires lots of energy inputs. One of the reasons the world economy is on the ropes is high prices for energy (the US consumer pays far less for natural gas than our European counterparts, which is part of the reason companies are pushing for LNG Ports–they want to export the gas to Europe). The price of energy is one of the things dragging on the economic recovery–and now that a significant proportion of our energy is coming from unconventional sources, high prices are built in. Tar sands can’t be extracted profitably unless oil prices are above $61 a barrel. If we’re in economic stagnation now, what happens when we turn the corner and get the majority of our energy from unconventional methods?

Which brings me to this article. I don’t vouch for its veracity, but it raises some interesting questions. After all, the methane hydrates under the Arctic–the ones that present such a nightmarish prospect for global warming should they melt down–would fill the need for the world’s energy for a long time if they were somehow harnessed before they hit the atmosphere. But burning the gas would also accelerate carbon in the atmosphere (albeit at a slower rate). Have the leaders of the world decided that peak oil is a bigger threat to human existence than the methane releases? Do they have technology needed to capture the multi-gigaton bursts of methane expected ‘at any moment’ by people like glaciologist Jason Box? And even if we can capture Arctic methane in any significant degree, does that stop the other feedback loops such as Siberian permafrost?

Most of all, do we trust the denialists (who didn’t anticipate global warming in the first place) to get us out of this mess? Or are the plutocrats planning a mission to Mars if this little live experiment fails?


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The U.S. officially committed in writing in 2010 to the greenhouse gas emission cuts proposed by President Obama in Copenhagen—4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commits the nation to combat climate change, but with a caveat: any such commitment must be backed by legislation, which has not passed the U.S. Senate.

We still don’t have agreement on legislation that would put this into effect.

The White House announced on 25 November 2009 that President Barack Obama is offering a U.S. target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The proposed target agrees with the limit set by climate legislation that has passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but the U.S. Senate is currently[when?] considering a bill that cuts GHG emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. The White House noted that the final U.S. emissions target will ultimately fall in line with the climate legislation, once that legislation passes both houses of Congress and is approved by the President. In light of the president’s goal for an 83% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, the pending legislation also includes a reduction in GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2025 and to 42% below 2005 levels by 2030.

In June 2013, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University where he laid out both the case for action on climate change and the steps his Administration will take to address it. The Climate Action Plan that the President announced includes steps to cut carbon pollution, help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that are already on the way, and continue American leadership in international efforts to combat global climate change.

In his Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions. Today, the White House released the Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions. Learn more about the strategy in the fact sheet below, and check out the full Strategy here.

This article you post leaves me to wonder if this nation and other nations have taken into consideration the methane in the Artic, and what the possible implications of it escaping might be.


Without a combined effort by every country admitting to, and committing to slow climate change, efforts of those who take this emergency seriously, is like trying to plug a river overflow with your finger. I know it’s unfair because we have had our industrial revolution, but developing countries should be made to set more limits on emissions too.

When I first came to Tokyo over 30 years ago, there were regular photo chemical sirens and warnings asking people to go inside. Tokyo cleaned up it’s air, but for years now we have junk coming over from China, so bad sometimes that everything is covered in a dusting of yellow powder. Respiratory illnesses in the young and old have risen sharply in the last decade. Wear a face mask whenever I leave the house.

We have to push on for renewable energy, and vote for those who share our feeling of urgency. Here, every day, more and more people are speaking out against nuclear power. For the usually reserved people of Japan, that’s quite something.

Arctic drilling is an abomination.


MBX, “fracking” is not going to help either. Our water is in jeopardy from “fracking” because they inject many dangerous chemicals into the wells they drill. Those chemicals will find their way into the water table. There is a whole lot of reasons to be careful, but the oil and gas companies only look at profits!

Arctic methane is one thing I have no idea how to stop. Except if we stop burning fossil fuels and start using the sun and wind and other renewable energy sources. That might slow the climate change that is releasing of methane. Otherwise we are fracked!


Good questions. My sense is the “leaders” all have their heads in unhelpful places. I believe humanity can come up with solutions but only if there’s a will. And without an in-your-face crisis, they lack the will.

Miles Long
Miles Long

“More News On Methane–Are We Really F*cked?”


Miles “Short & Sweet” Long